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Financial Conundrum: Need Advice!


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So I'm in a bit of a conundrum.  I'm not going to go into too much detail, but here's the gist:

I'm a "later in life graduate student" (mid-30s).  I work full time, have a side business just for some professional projects, and do some other side projects, too.  I have a wife, 5 kids, and another on the way.

I've been admitted to two PhD programs and am wait listed at two other players.  The two acceptances came with offers for assistantships, so full tuition waivers plus stipends under $20k.  In a conversation with one program director I mentioned the full time job, and she said, "Oh, we have a policy where you can't receive a package and have a full time job at the same time."  Yeah, it'd be a lot to work full time + assisting + school, but I've already been doing that the last two years without too much fuss.  My current job agreed to accommodate the schedule.  I asked the second PhD program if they also had such a policy, and they said we should discuss it in person, but that time will be overwhelming and that "I don’t think you will find a PhD program that isn’t this way."

So I'm in a conundrum.  If I accept any of the programs, I likely wouldn't be able to accept a package and would therefore have to pay for my degree and wouldn't have the opportunities that others get (like teaching).  I can't quit my job, though; too many mouths to feed.

Anyone else ever ran into this?

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Hi there,

I am sorry about your conundrum.  i couldn't imagine, I am in my mid 30s but single and no kids and in my 3rd year of my PhD... I couldnt imagine doing this with a family let alone a full time job.  My take is you get what you put it in and it sounds like you are pulled in a million different directions.  My concern is that if you are working you wont be able to invest as much into publications and grants and also miss out on research and teaching experience.  I don't know if this is a horrible idea but have you considered taking out student loans, taking the stippend and devoting yourself full time to your PhD?  Just a thought!  Regardless it soudnds like you have amaing focus and are very ambitous, all the best!

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Thanks, Val!

That does make a lot of sense, and I often get the "where do you find the time for all the things you do?"  I just figure I put time where I want; the things you want to do most, you'll find time for.  So while I was getting my Masters, I was able to present at six conferences, work on a couple publishable things, plus my coursework, plus assistantships (both teaching and research).  It's a lot, but I truly enjoy my studies, so I put time towards it.  Other things do suffer, of course, but they're sacrifices I'm willing to make.

I've considered the loan route, but it'd be too much to take on.  If a PhD takes 5-7 years, times my salary.. that's more than my mortgage.  A couple times over.

I think my only alternative at this point is to try to figure out a part time or consultative option.  Something that allows me to work 20 hours/week at half my salary (still a very good income that supports my family), and use the stipend to make up a little bit of it and use the extra time for my studies.  Not sure if that's feasible, but I'm willing to try to find such opportunities.

Thanks for the suggestions!

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Regardless kudos to you, it sounds like you have your eye on the prize and you nothing is going to stop you!    Consultative work would be pretty great, if you could somehow pick something like that up.  Don't forget to, you can always apply for grants, I just got my first one awarded this year and now for my last year I wont have to work for the university and can focus 100% on my research.  It might not be in the immediate future but at least something to think about.  Where there is a will there is a way and there are always options!

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  • 1 month later...

Hey syn,

I just happened to come across your thread. I applaud you for your strive and dedication--despite all your responsibilities. ?  Val006's suggestion is great when it comes to grants. Just to add, if you do end up having to take out some loans for your pHD, you could always follow up on online education platforms. I'm currently following up on SchoolLoans101.com for financial literacy help, but there might be some others out there. 

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